EQUANS-Solar Technics has built the largest floating PV project in Belgium on behalf of Floating PV NV, with the following stakeholders: LRM, EDF Luminus, Sibelco, and Groep Machiels.
EQUANS wants to guide both companies and governments in their low-carbon transition by helping them to reduce their energy consumption, make their installations more efficient, and reduce their CO₂ emissions as much as possible. EQUANS is always looking for the most innovative, efficient, and customised solutions for its clients. Commissioned by Floating PV, EQUANS has created a floating solar panel park at the Dessel site of Sibelco, a worldwide producer of material solutions.
Floating solar panels: a first
The floating solar panels have been installed in Dessel, on a lake next to one of the production sites of sand extraction company Sibelco, which will also consume the solar energy generated. The 17,256 solar panels occupy five hectares of the 70-hectare lake. This is the first project in Belgium to make large-scale use of floating solar panels. With a capacity of 7.04 MWp, the solar farm is estimated to generate a total of 6,300 MWh of electricity per year, equivalent to the consumption of 1,550 households. The installation of the floating solar park is also a first for EQUANS-Solar Technics.
Technology and innovations that increase the overall efficiency of the panels
A floating solar park has many challenges. The impact on the water surface and the calculation of wind and wave forces that impact the solar farm, and knowledge and interpretation of the soil conditions (depth and composition) must also be mapped out in addition to the knowledge of the local meteorological conditions. Based on these studies, the crucial anchoring strategy will be elaborated with type of anchors, type of mooring ropes, and optimal distribution of the tensile forces across the solar park. Based on these extensive preliminary studies, EQUANS-Solar Technics has proposed a technology choice with an east-west arrangement of the solar panels and adapted materials. In addition, innovative elements such as the active cooling system that is intended to increase the efficiency of the solar park were also built in at the same time. A study programme was also set up at the client’s request to measure the effect of bifacial solar panels on water as part of the innovation package.
Creation of the floating solar project at record speed
Lastly, the construction of a floating solar park is an enormous logistical challenge. Everything must be delivered to the site at the same time and assembled on land in one go. As a result, the construction period took just four weeks, while all preliminary studies and logistical preparation in the previous five months were coordinated by the ENGIE Project Team. Thanks to this broad technical know-how and the strong project management, this floating solar project could be built in record time. But it was also possible thanks to successful cooperation between the various parties involved. This is not the first collaboration between EQUANS and LRM, the largest Floating PV stakeholder. The construction of the largest onshore solar park in the Benelux, the Crystal Solar Park – with a capacity of 99.48 MWp – was completed in Lommel in 2019. Just like for this solar farm, EQUANS’ assignment for the Floating PV project does not stop with the installation of the solar panels, but also includes their maintenance during the years thereafter.
Sustainable and efficient installations
Solar energy is an excellent way to reduce the CO2 footprint, and the energy generated is also used by Sibelco to extract sand, a raw material used to produce glass for solar panels. This completes the sustainability circle: creating new solar panels using solar energy. This project is fully in line with EQUANS’ strategy. We want to guide our clients in their transition to becoming carbon-neutral by helping them reduce their consumption and making their business or installations more efficient.